New Balance FuellCell SuperComp Elite v3 Introduction
New Balance has a very confusing naming system when it comes to their flagship trainers and racers.
The RC Elite v2 was the name of last year’s version but this year’s New Balance flagship racer is called the SuperComp (SC) Elite v3. New Balance wants to give all their carbon-plated shoes the name SuperComp this year.
Last year, when I tested the RC Elite v2, I found that it had a really pleasant, smooth and energetic ride but I found it a little too soft/mushy to race in. It didn’t provide as much speed assistance as other super shoes and I felt speed was lost in the spongy midsole foam. I used my pair for mostly uptempo training runs over the past year.
The new SuperComp Elite v3 weighs 8 oz (228 g) and is heavier than v2 which was 7.7 oz (218 g). It now has a 4 mm drop compared to 8 mm last year and its price has also gone up by $25 which is now in line with the Vaporfly Next% 2, Adios Pro 3, and Hyperion Elite 3.
This is the TCS New York City Marathon® edition which has special branding on the insole, heel pull tab, tongue and medial midfoot. It’s very rare that a brand has a wide release launch in a marathon special edition model.
New Balance FuellCell SuperComp Elite v3 First Impressions
When I saw images of the unreleased Elite v3, I was surprised that they had changed the upper to a bootie construction. I’m not a fan of bootie constructions on racing shoes. The Hoka Carbon X3 also had a bootie construction which I hated.
The first thing I noticed when I put the Elite v3 on was that I couldn’t get a good heel lockdown due to there being no double first row eyelets. No matter how tight I tied the laces, my heel still felt loose.
It felt ever so slightly firmer than last year’s RC Elite v2 but I had to be wearing last year’s version on one foot and this year’s version on the other foot to notice a difference.
My first run was a strength workout which consisted of 3 x 3.2 km. What stood out was the extra energy return that I felt, especially in the rearfoot and midfoot of the shoe. It felt similar to the SuperComp Trainer but the Elite v3 much nimbler and nippier.
Transitions were smooth and the ride felt softer than most of the super shoes I’ve tested this year but the Elite v3 didn’t feel as propulsive. The rocker felt gentler and not as aggressive so toe-offs felt less powerful.
New Balance FuellCell SuperComp Elite v3 Upper
I’m not sure why New Balance decided to go with a bootie construction upper but it was a very, very bad idea. Bootie construction uppers belong on casual lifestyle sneakers, not on flagship carbon-plated racers.
Due to the stiffness of the plate, foot lockdown is extremely important in a racer and the SC Elite v3 fails to provide a good heel lockdown because it’s impossible to tie a runner’s knot. This is the SC Elite’s biggest weakness.
I find the thin upper material a little less breathable compared to last year’s version which had large ventilation holes in the toe box so v3 runs a little warmer than v2. The entire upper is one piece so the tongue is attached and there’s no tongue slide.
I found the collar stiff and intrusive. Sometimes when I’m running on an angled surface, I can feel the collar poking into my ankles which is annoying. I never had this problem with the previous versions because they never had bootie constructions so there was more space between my ankle and the collar.
The SC Elite v3 has a true to size fit and the relaxed upper is stretchy so it’s very accommodating. It feels like a training shoe upper rather than a racing one and wide-footed runners should have no problems however if you have high volume feet, the collar might poke into your ankles and irritate.
New Balance FuellCell SuperComp Elite v3 Sole Unit
The SuperComp Elite v3 has a ride which is very gentle on your feet and legs. This is due to 2 main reasons: firstly, the FuelCell compound which makes up its midsole is super soft and secondly, its carbon plate is relatively flexible for a marathon racer.
The gentle, forgiving ride is perfect for long runs, at marathon pace. For shorter, faster workouts I crave something a little stiffer and with more prominent rockered transitions. This is why I don’t recommend the SuperComp Elite v3 for races shorter than 25 kilometres.
The carbon plate in the SC Elite v3 has an arc design, in other words, it’s cambered and not flat. You can actually feel that the plate is not flat when walking and running in it. While you’re loading the plate, it flattens and snaps back to place when released.
In addition to the cambered plate, the SC Elite v3 also has a large, deep canal or void on its underside which allows the entire midsole to splay upon impact and then return the energy upwards. This is also a feature of the SC Trainer and it’s not a gimmick- you can really feel the extra energy return in the rearfoot and midfoot.
The drop has been changed from 8 mm in the previous version, to 4 mm but I can’t say that I noticed a difference with the lower drop. It still feels like the shoe is easing you through transitions from heel to toe due to its wide transition void underneath it even though the drop has halved.
What I did notice was the improved stability. The SC Elite v3 feels like it has a less curved last which is more evenly balanced than previous versions. Previous versions had lateral flares that tended to push me over onto my medial side.
On the outsole of the SC Elite v3, there is rubber coverage on only the essential, high wear areas. There are 2 separate pieces of rubber on the lateral and medial sides of the rearfoot, as well as one U-shaped piece of rubber on the forefoot. The front of the carbon plate also has a rubber piece glued onto it because it’s bottom-loaded and needs protection from the ground.
Grip is average and acceptable for a racer. I miss the spiky forefoot of v1 which is still one of the best gripping outsoles I’ve ever experienced on a running shoe.
As far as durability goes, the SC Elite v3 has lower durability than the average carbon-plated super shoe. The main reason for this is that its FuelCell foam is so soft that it scuffs very easily when exposed to rough surfaces.
I’ve noticed a lot of wear on the exposed lips of the canal under the rearfoot after just 80 kilometres of testing. There are also small holes where sharp stones have pierced the soft midsole.
New Balance FuellCell SuperComp Elite v3 Conclusions
I used the SC Elite v3 towards the tail end of my marathon training block and it was in the running for race day however I decided to not go with it.
I like the new design of the midsole/outsole but I hate the new upper. Version 2 had a much better upper which was more comfortable and provided a more secure lockdown.
The SuperComp Elite v3 has a more energetic ride and it feels slightly firmer and faster than last year’s version. The new, cambered plate and Energy Arc make the shoe feel more dynamic, more bouncy.
It’s versatile but it performs better at the slower paces. From easy paces all the way up to marathon pace are enjoyable but anything faster and it feels a bit inefficient due to its plush ride.
It still isn’t S tier for me. I don’t find it as propulsive or efficient as some of the other super shoes, mainly due to its gentle rocker and its soft ride.
I think New Balance still needs to firm up the midsole foam a tad and to make the toe-spring higher/more aggressive in order to make it more competitive with the market leaders.